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Education relief for COVID-19

Navigating the CARES Act process

for distance learning and continuity of school operations

  • How is education changing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

    It started when millions of K–12 and college students across the country found themselves suddenly unable to go to their schools or locked out of campuses, and teachers were forced to shift to online learning with little or no time to ramp up on remote-learning tools or digital lesson plans.  

    Now, as schools and campuses strive to close technology gaps in their infrastructure and broaden student access to distance-learning tools and devices, education itself faces a potential long-term shift. To help schools manage the crisis, Congress passed the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes nearly $31 billion to support educational needs.  

    CARES funding is a critical first step in helping educational organizations develop continuity of operations, as well as consider long-term plans and create new hybrid modes of education that will support both “regular” and “flex” modes of education.


    What does CARES funding provide for K–12 and higher education?

    There are several significant components in the CARES Act to support the rapid shift to distance learning.

    Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSER)—This fund allots $13 billion to support immediate K–12 education needs. This includes strengthening protocols to minimize the spread of infectious disease and focusing on the need for continuity. ESSER also can help districts invest in technology infrastructure and distance-learning tools that allow teachers to conduct online classroom instruction without interruption and foster faculty training. State education agencies are eligible to apply through July 1 and must allocate most of the money to local education agencies. 

    Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF)—This includes different ways to distribute $14 billion in relief funds to higher education institutions. Half of the funding must be distributed directly to students. Fifty percent may be used by universities and colleges to cover costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including remote learning, IT capacity and distance-learning training. Higher educational institutions may apply through a Department of Education (DoE) grants process. 

    Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF)—This $3 billion fund serves public and private K–12 schools, early childcare centers and higher education institutions. The DoE will award this funding to state governors based on a formula detailed in the CARES Act. Funding can be used flexibly by the governors as they deem necessary. 

  • How do K–12 school districts receive ESSER funding?

    State education agencies will receive the funds from the U.S. Department of Education. Local districts must follow the procedures developed by their state agencies to apply for and receive funding. The DoE has repeatedly communicated its intent to streamline the process for CARES stimulus funding to respond to institutional needs as quickly as possible. 

    To apply for funding, state educational agencies must complete a certification form that includes:

    • A cover sheet signed by the chief state school officer
    • Brief explanations of how the ESSER funds will be used
    • Other assurances and certifications

    Forms can be signed digitally and sent via email to ESSERF@ed.gov. The deadline for ESSER funding is July 1, but many states are moving much more quickly. 


    How do higher education institutions secure CARES Act HEERF certification and receive funding?

    Create a Grants.gov account to begin certification. After you create the account, access Grants.gov and follow these steps:

    Colleges and universities may not apply for the institutional funds until they’ve demonstrated that they have already completed certification for the students’ portion of the relief fund.

    After the DoE has verified the certification and agreement information, institutions may draw the Recipient’s Institutional Costs funds using the education department’s G5 system.

  • How is technology used to build continuity of operations and distance-learning programs? 

    Robust technology is needed to help build effective and engaging remote-learning environments. Academic institutions require:

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  • Telecommunications services 

    Voice and internet connectivity services to help shift from onsite to offsite learning, and communication services to help administrators relay vital information to students as needed.


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  • Unified communication and collaboration

    A virtual communication and collaboration experience that extends the classroom experience into homes, enabling students, teachers and parents to connect and collaborate from anywhere at any time. 


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  • Internet-connected devices/equipment

    Laptops, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices for faculty to take their mobile classrooms on the go, as well as a private network and filtering solution of the school district's choice to ensure CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) compliance.


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  • Security services

    Cybersecurity protections that can identify vulnerabilities and help keep school, student and faculty data protected.


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  • Virtual call centers

    Cloud contact-center solutions can help teachers, faculty, parents and students stay in touch with schools in flexible ways as needed—by phone, email, chat or text.


  • How can Verizon help?

    Verizon’s cybersecurity solutions help K–12 districts and higher education institutions continue operations, facilitate distance learning and protect themselves from cyber threats while helping to maintain the connection with faculty and students. With communication and collaboration software, teachers can gain the flexibility needed to hold classes using web, voice and video conferencing. And smart devices, as well as a private network and CIPA filtering, give students what they need to continue learning.

    • Help optimize your network for remote learning—Verizon wireline and wireless networks are built to be scalable, so administrators could provide faculty and students with the connectivity they need

    • Help enable collaborative learning environments—Remote tools and real-time video conferencing tools can work seamlessly across almost all devices for better engagement

    • Help bolster information security for continuity of school services—Cybersecurity protections are built in to help keep faculty and student information safe

    We can help you deliver resilient connectivity across a secure network. We’re here to answer any questions about crisis response, distance-learning technology and security.

    For more information or assistance, please refer to The Center of Digital Education's suggested strategies for utilizing CARES funding and contact your Verizon account manager.